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Fort Wayne, Indiana  16 February 1882

Our first installment is a pair of interviews I discovered in 1995 while researching my Master’s thesis for the Department of Humanities at Indiana State University. (Bisch, Marilyn C.  Oscar Wilde in Indiana.  Indiana State University. Series 1 ; no. 1914. 1996.) 

Below are links to pdf files of both interviews from my files.

If you are unable to see the files, download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader at:

Both, more or less, follow the pattern of most, earlier interviews – Wilde’s appearance and dress, his surroundings, his meals and manner of speaking are detailed – and there are the common questions on how he reacts to various aspects of traveling and lecturing in America. However, I think one portion of the Sentinel interview deserves highlighting.

It substantively speaks of the seriousness of Wilde’s purpose and argues against the conclusion of Hofer and Scharnhorst’s “Introduction” to The Interviews: “Although Wilde often paid lip service to the salutary influence of art on the working class, it seems that aestheticism as social theory endorsed not egalitarianism but rather a democracy of snobs” (8), with which I entirely disagree. 

Wilde’s 16 February lecture in Fort Wayne was his 16th  in America. It was also, notably, the second presentation of “The Decorative Arts,” a new lecture which evolved, in part, from ongoing revision of his initial 9 January Chickering Hall, New York City lecture “The English Renaissance.” Written in Chicago between 10 and 13 February (O’Brein, Kevin. Oscar Wilde in Canada. Toronto: Personal Library, 1982. p. 187), “The Decorative Arts,” which continued to evolve as Wilde learned more about America and Americans, became the primary lecture he delivered over the rest of his tour.

The more “practical” approach of this new lecture as a true expression of Wilde’s egalitarian views on the redemptive value of beauty in everyday life for all humans is reflected in this exchange between Wilde and the Sentinel reporter:

“May I ask, Mr. Wilde, the nature of your mission in America?”
     “It is briefly to discover those men and women who are susceptible of artistic development and to give them best opportunities to expand. On the other hand we take those persons in whom there dwells no capacity for artistic vocation and produce in them that artistic temperament without which there can be no individuality in art; no actual joy of life; in a word, no civilization.”
     “How do you propose to accomplish this?”
     “By making art not a luxury for the rich, but by accustoming the people from childhood to color and design in their homes.”

 At a distance of 128 years, assessment of Wilde’s sincerity in these remarks is probably best left to the judgment of the person who originally recorded them. The Sentinel interviewer concludes: “Mr. Wilde is a charming conversationalist very little affected in his manners and in brief impresses us as an interesting, enthusiastic and eccentric young Englishman whose views however visionary, is thorough earnest about them.”

~Marilyn Bisch, 16 May 2010

Fort Wayne IN Daily Sentinel 16 Feb 1882 p 3

Fort Wayne IN Morning Gazette 16 Feb 1882 p 6



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